Why Google Shopping (PLA's) Isn't Working For You

Andrew Birkitt

Lead Technical Engineer
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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Google Shopping (Product Listing Ads) are becoming increasingly popular as an online advertising tool for retailers – they are beginning to take centre stage! Retail revenue from Google Shopping grew by 52% year on year in the first quarter of 2016. It is still a developing platform and not every retailer has mastered the technical complexities of Google Shopping as most have with traditional PPC. Additionally, as the competition continues to rise it is putting more pressure on retailers to put more time, budget and resources into understanding the technicalities.

Our experience of managing shopping campaigns on a daily basis for a huge variety of industries, working alongside Google account managers and the Google technical team. We come across the same downfalls with clients existing campaigns when they come to us for our expert help. So we feel it’s valuable to share these with you as a retailer if you are using Product Listing Ads so you can avoid the same pitfalls:

Incorrect Back-End Product Structure Setup

A poor data structure in your eCommerce platform will equal poor quality, bad data in your product feed which will impact performance and visibility. Your products structure and organisation is really important not only for Google Shopping but it also impacts your visibility on organic search listings as well. So this is the ideal starting point for to check the hierarchy and structure of your products and the quality of those listings on your website as all the data and information originates from here.

Failure To Optimise Your Google Shopping Feed

Are you pulling your product feed directly from your eCommerce website store and dumping into Google’s Merchant Centre without optimising the feed first? If you are at the stage of setting up your feed then an initial start would be to read through Google’s Product Specification Feed. Next, instead of simply dropping the feed straight into the merchant centre you need to manipulate your feed and optimise it in the same way as you would for organic search. Avoid using more generic terms as they tend to be more competitive bidding and therefore a higher cost-per-click. There are additional custom labels that can be added to improve the data in the feed gaining you better visibility.

Putting the time in or getting expert help to make sure your feed is well optimised is definitely worth it. Feed quality is King! If you have done a really good job with the product data in the backend of your website as discussed above then this may not actually be necessary!

Product Variations

When products have different variables, for example, you could have the same size and specification of a trampoline but 3 different colour variations (Pink, Blue and Green) then each customisable option needs to be added as a separate product. Therefore you should have 3 separate ads which will trigger the products on more searches gaining better visibility and also give you better measurement data on which variable performs the best.

Conversions NOT Being Tracked

Seems stupid right that you wouldn’t be tracking your conversions? Well, yes it is but you would be surprised how often we see it. If you are not tracking conversions from your Google Shopping ads then how do you know how well the campaign is performing or where those conversions are exactly coming from? This is useful data in Google Analytics when looking at assisted conversions from different marketing channels and understanding the customer journey better. Measuring your ads performance or any marketing channel is vital so you can refine your campaign to continually improve performance.

Website Quality

Are your ads performing well with visibility and click throughs but not converting once they reach your website? If the quality of your website is not up to scratch then it may impact your performance on Google Shopping in addition to your organic search presence. Google places a lot of importance on site quality and links as part of its algorithm to determine the site and merchant quality. A few things to check:

  • Does it perform well organically?
  • Site speed
  • Does it look good?
  • Is it easy to find and buy the products?
  • Have you got high-quality product information?
  • Is your bounce rate high as this could indicate a problem – check at a granular level!!
  • Are users engaging with your site spending time on it and clicking through to view more pages?
  • Does it look better than your competitors?
  • Are you delivering them to the right landing page and giving them exactly what they want?
  • Does it perform across mobile and tablet devices?

Website Underperforming On Mobile

A significant growth in retail revenue from Google Shopping is through mobile and nearly half of Google searches now happen on mobile. Mobile drove over 50% of all online traffic in 2016 however it still only accounted for 29% of all online sales. In 2017 this is increasing even higher with technology advances making it easier to make purchases on mobile devices.

A huge driver of the growth in retail revenue from Google Shopping is mobile, so not having a responsive design (which you should have by now in 2017) could have a hugely detrimental impact on conversions. Many retailers still are not using best practices for mobile websites and APPs and therefore their website is underperforming not only on Google Shopping but also in organic search listings.

Low-Quality Product Imagery

The imagery across all of your marketing should be high quality, pictures sell products! A lot of retailers don’t make the effort to spend resources on making their products look the best. Avoid using stock images to differentiate yourself from other retailers and take your own high-quality images instead. Low or poor quality imagery can also get your products disapproved.

Quantity Of Products

You may find it more difficult to get visibility if you sell less than 500 products but this entirely depends on how competitive or niche your product is as we have some very successful shopping campaigns with a lot less than 500 products. The Jury’s still out on this one!!

In Conclusion

You can get a high ROI and quick wins from Google Shopping and it’s become a very powerful advertising tool for online retailers. It also helps with some really high-quality product performance analysis particularly for retailers with niche products. BUT this only works if you put time and resources into the setup and management, creating a quality feed and understanding the technicalities. If you’re running a very large Google Shopping campaign which can be very complex, we encourage you to team up with a specialist partner who can release the data about which Google will otherwise leave you in the dark.

We run through more technical areas that you can apply to your Google Shopping account in this pre-recorded Webinar, made just for you. Simply click here to watch it now.

google shopping webinar

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